Automation is the future of self storage, but what do you need to consider when you choose to implement these tools?
Automation is the name of the game for many industries, and self storage is no different. A growing amount of facilities are now moving towards partial or full automation, automating everything from online bookings and payments to automated door locks and entrances. While there is a beneficial upside of automating your facility, there are several things you should consider before implementing any automated systems.
We covered this in an earlier blog post, but automation isn’t necessarily right for everyone. While it provides multiple potential benefits, it won’t suit every facility. A key consideration here is to research and know your customer base. The appropriateness of automation in your facility will largely depend on the area and people you serve. While automation usually works the best in prime locations around growing suburbs or metropolitan areas, this doesn’t mean it can’t benefit a facility operating in a rural community though.
Market research into your customer base is therefore key. Look for what the retail trends are in your surrounding area, what your competitors are doing that seem to be increasing business, and work out exactly who your target customer is. Obviously, if your target customers are on the younger end, automation and convenience will very much be the expectation. If you’re able to identify this, you’ll likely be able to steal some customers from your competitors with less automation and convenient self-service systems.
How much automation do you want?
Maybe the largest and most important consideration concerning the actual implementation of your automated services, you’ll have to decide how much of your facility you actually want to automate. As we discussed above, this will depend on the research you did prior. What do the businesses in your community have in terms of automation? What do your competitors have? If the competing storage facilities already offer online rentals, digital lease signing, and autopay features, then at the minimum, you’ll be expected to match up to them.
You have to jump in the deep end, but there are other, small ways to automate that you can implement to test the waters and see if it’s worth growing your self-service tools. Here are a few automation ideas:
Online lease signing
Automated facility entrance via mobile application
Sending push notifications to tenants for alerts, offers, or special occasions
Which services to choose?
Once you’ve decided which automation avenues to go down, do your research to figure out which services you want to use at your facility. Get familiar with the costs, upsides, and limitations of the available technologies. The more research you do, the more you will know which service or system you should employ, dependent on your budget and the facility’s specific needs.
Start small, then grow
If you’re unsure of which automation tools you want to implement, always start smaller. If you go straight into a massive restructuring of your facility’s systems, you’ll soon find yourself out of your depth, and very possibly out of money. Like we said earlier, start small to see what works and what doesn’t, then depending on the response from your customers, you can increase the automation, and budget accordingly.
High initial costs
In the long run, automation will cut down on various overhead costs such as employee salaries and building costs. However, most automation endeavors will require quite a high initial investment. While not necessarily a bad thing, you’ll have to consider whether your current budget can accommodate such a change, or whether it’s the best way to spend your money at the current time.
Lack of personal touch
Automation will bring convenience, but maybe not all of your customers will appreciate that. While the younger customers will definitely welcome a move towards technology, some might want a more personal touch from a business. Self storage businesses can often be very involved in the surrounding community, and increasing automation means that you might lose the personal relationships and community bonding you might have gained without automation.
This is again heavily dependent on your target customer and the community you serve. Technology is quite ubiquitous, and you can probably rely on most of your customers transitioning towards automated systems, but some of your customers will undoubtedly have technical difficulties using these new tools, and potentially might cause their rental process to become more convoluted instead of making it easier and more seamless.
Overall, automation is the way self storage is going in the future, and your facility doesn’t want to be left behind. That being said, it won’t be able to do everything, and there are a variety of things you should consider before you choose to change. In the end, it’ll be up to you to determine how much automation you need to suit your facility’s own needs.
At Storeganise we automate every aspect of your self storage service. This includes move-ins and move-outs, customer payments and business all other processes for a more efficient self-storage business. Get a firsthand look by booking a personalised demo.